Edward Snowden: NSA whistleblower answers reader questions

June 20, 2013

Edward Snowden took readers’ questions on why he revealed the NSA’s top-secret surveillance of U.S. citizens, the international storm that has ensued, and the uncertain future he now faces, The Guardian reports.

[A few  excerpts --- Editor.]

Q: Some skepticism exists about certain of your claims, including this: “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email. Do you stand by that, and if so, could you elaborate?”

A: Yes, I stand by it. U.S. Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it’s important to understand that policy protection is no protection — policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection — a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the “widest allowable aperture,” and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, U.S. comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn’t stop being protected communications just because of the IP they’re tagged with.

More fundamentally, the “U.S. Persons” protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.”

Q: Edward, there is rampant speculation, outpacing facts, that you have or will provide classified U.S. information to the Chinese or other governments in exchange for asylum. Have/will you?

A: This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public, as the US media has a knee-jerk “RED CHINA!” reaction to anything involving HK or the PRC, and is intended to distract from the issue of US government misconduct. Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.

Q: Is encrypting my email any good at defeating the NSA survelielance? Id my data protected by standard encryption?

A: Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on. Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.